It’s time to prune new wood hydrangeas, especially if your plants live in warm parts of the U.S. (zone 7 and up) and elsewhere. It’s hard to conceive of that when you live where I do (zone 5) as we stare down yet another frigid blast of cold air over the next few days. But for gardeners in places like Seattle, Arkansas, Atlanta, and parts of the UK, your new wood bloomers can be cut now.
WHICH NEW WOOD HYDRANGEAS TO PRUNE NOW
Exactly which plants am I talking about? The ones that are foolproof and will produce flowers on the stems they will grow this year, AKA new wood.
PRUNING NEW WOOD SMOOTH/WOODLAND HYDRANGEAS
All of your woodland/smooth hydrangea arborescens plants fall into this category. You may know them as ‘Annabelle’, Invincibelle Mini Mauvette™, Invincibelle® Spirit, and Incrediball®, along with others in their families.
How much do you cut back on these plants? Good question! I wouldn’t go further down than about 2 feet tall. You want to give the plant the ability to have strong stems to hold the deliciously large flowers, even after it rains. A before and after shot of your plant might look like this:
PRUNING NEW WOOD PANICLE HYDRANGEAS
All panicle hydrangeas like ‘Fire and Ice’, Fire Light®, ‘Limelight’, Pinky Winky®, and Little Quick Fire® are new wood bloomers. They too can be cut back now. Before and after shots of ‘Limelight’ from my garden looked like this last spring.
IS IT TIME TO PRUNE NEW WOOD HYDRANGEAS IN COLD ZONES?
Technically, you can prune all your new wood blooming hydrangeas no matter where you live in the northern hemisphere. But I would’t recommend it. For cold weather gardens like mine in zone 6 and below, we still have a lot of winter left. And March can be harsh on our plants. You want to let Mother Nature take her best shot and allow for winterkill before you take the pruners to your plants. Plus your footing needs to be safe and with sharp cutting tools, you want to be super careful. If your fingers are itchy to be out in the garden, take the time to get those cutting tools in shape. Clean, sharpen and oil them so they’re ready for the hard work ahead.
WHAT ABOUT OTHER HYDRANGEAS
Don’t even think about cutting any of your other hydrangeas, no matter how ratty they may appear. Oak leaf hydrangeas, big leaf hydrangeas, climbing hydrangeas and mountain hydrangeas all bloom on old wood even if they are rebloomers. You must leave all of them alone. For them, you are in the HYDRANGEA DANGER ZONE™ (HDZ™), that time between August 1 and when you see buds. The HDZ™ is when those buds are most susceptible to all kinds of mayhem but it shouldn’t be your pruning cuts. That time will come soon enough and you will be glad you let your plants get the last of their beauty sleep.
I cover pruning in detail with loads of photos in my book Success With Hydrangeas, A Gardener’s Guide.
On another note, I have posted my speaking schedule for the next few months. Maybe there’s a location convenient for you to come and hear me cover a topic of interest to you. There are several hydrangea talks, including two on pruning. Stop by and say hello.
Here’s to happy hydrangeas, not just a myth but a reality!
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